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No frills needed for The Wood Brothers at WorkPlay

The Wood Brothers (with Seth Walker)
WorkPlay
Birmingham, AL
March 16, 2012

 

 

As winter wound down, an unseasonably warm Friday night brought a full house of music lovers to Birmingham’s WorkPlay Theatre. Patrons filled the venue early, all prepared to simultaneously wind down a work week and ramp up the weekend with the band of Wood brothers that almost never was.

As with most evenings that begin with opening acts, many fans were prepared to write off the one on this night. This mentality would not prevail for long after the two-terraced levels of buzzing, seated and previously dismissive found themselves greeted with a pleasant surprise in the form of Seth Walker.

The mesmerized audience began leaning over the banisters, listening intently to the undoubtedly noteworthy solo artist. Walker’s soulful southern roots were on full display with his B.B. King-channeling guitar riffs and gritty voice that bore semblance to the silky eminence that  Harry Connick, Jr. projects. Though Texas is where he hangs his hat, Walker was undeniably just as at home on the stage, his infectious presence immediately managing to draw The Wood Brothers’  crowd into the performance; the united snapping, clapping and singing creating a warm vibe in the already intimate setting.

The main men of the evening joined him on stage to lend a hand and close the set out with some four-part vocal harmony, sans accompaniment (or “Acapulco” as they joked) on an energetic toe-tapper, “More Days Like This.”  It was a great way to tease the audience for what was yet to come and judging from the responsiveness of the WorkPlay gathering, Seth Walker’s style resonated in such a way as to suggest that it may not be long before he is making the trek to the town on his own.

As the musically saturated brothers Chris and Oliver Wood, accompanied by their tasty and technical one man drum section, Jano Rix, took to the spotlight, so too did the crowd receive a adrenaline shot, or so it seemed.

The pumped fans spilled out onto the floor, surrounding the stage and with a few obligatory remarks and nods, the trio opened the night with a subdued and poignant version of fan favorite,   “Postcards from Hell.” Oliver melted right into a theoretically magical and jaw-jarring solo that concurrently gave pause to and inspired a roar of thunderous applause from the fully attentive mass.

From here, the same held true as the group played one pristine rendition from their catalog after the next, changing feels flawlessly, giving the crowd upbeat tempos with melodic breaks and hip-shaking grooves that shone the spotlight on Chris.

As fans are still reeling from the release of Smoke Ring Halo (August, 2011: Southern Ground), the guys proved that the songwriting has definitely not come to a halt by playing a tune that has yet to be featured on an album (but has been in live circulation since late 2011), entitled “Honey Jar.”  Demonstrating has mastery for the simultaneous bass and harmonica routine, Chris led the trio from a double time intro into a halftime, down-and-dirty swing section.

A definite highlight of the evening came with the resolute, gospel inspired track, “Up Above my Head.”  Rix whipped out his beloved busker-style clunker of a guitar that is covered with tape, metal can lids, and various other dangles and spangles. The group affectionately referred to the musical contraption as the “shit-tar,” or the “poo-tar,” as they edited it earlier in the day for their radio spot.  One audience member’s summation of the sound said it all with the thoughtful shout, “It doesn’t sound like shit!”  On its whole, the song embodied perfection — the heavenly harmonies among each instrument and their pure, divine voices playing a definitive nod to the subject matter of the angelic song.

Chris cranked up the next song with an awe-inspiring bass solo that so amazing that the smoke from the fog machines could have just as easily been from his lightning quick fingers plucking the strings of the bass that dwarfs him in size. In short order, Oliver joined in with a medicine bottle as a percussive shaker and his thick, soulful and raspy voice to round out the thickly complex sound. Stating teasingly that sometimes they wanted to “hear music from some different brothers”, the boys launched into a funk filled, bluesy take on the (Allman) Brothers’ “Midnight Rider,” followed by the dark and bittersweet Smoke Ring Halo title track.

“One More Day” met the crowd’s thirsty cries with a distinctively different Dixieland jazz feel, complete with jingles on the drum sticks and hi-hat.  There were solo breaks all around and dancing, twirling, and singing from the musically intoxicated audience.

After an intoxicating take on “One More Day” that came with a distinctively different Dixieland jazz feel, the group was coaxed back to the stage for an encore, wherein the trio poured into “Luckiest Man” as fans melted into the chilled vibe, giving group hugs, while swaying and singing along.

The relaxed atmosphere launched back into party mode as Seth Walker joined his friends and tour mates back on stage with his guitar. Rix revisited his “shit-tar” and the four crooners celebrated their last night on tour together with The Fabulous Thunderbirds’ blues hit “Walking to My Baby.” With that and the round of “thanks,” “waves” and the like, the house lights were on and the night was capped.

This trio of master musicians, deftly honed in their craft, performed each moment of the show with flawless perfection.  Many musicians are trained in precision while others put their stock in the feeling behind it all.  In a rare and refreshing meeting of the two worlds, The Wood Brothers are able to combine emotional connections with perfected technical skill that creates the ultimate musical experience. It is this showing of minimal frills and maximum raw talent keeps The Wood Brothers’ crowd always coming back for more. One can only hope that it will be for many years to come.

 

Setlist:

 

Post Cards from Hell, Spirit, When I Was Young, Lovin’ Arms, Pray Enough, Honey Jar, Atlas, Up Above My Head, Chevrolet, Midnight Rider, Smoke Ring Halo, One More Day, Pay Day, Shoofly Pie, Get Out My Life Woman

Encore: Luckiest Man, Walking to My Baby (with Seth Walker)

 

Click the thumbnail(s) to view photos from the show by

Brian DeGaetano

 

Scroll down to revisit Honest Tune‘s exclusive acoustic performance videos recorded at The Festy with The Wood Brothers

 

The Wood Brothers: “When I Was Young” (an Honest Tune Exclusive)

The Wood Brothers: Mary Anna” (an Honest Tune Exclusive)

 

 

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